The average length of a private tenancy in the UK has risen by 300% over the last two years to reach a five-year high, from 16 months in 2014 to four years in 2016.
Government data shows that the average length of residence for a private tenant is up from three-and-a-half years in 2015 to a new five-year high this year.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) continues to urge the Government to remove barriers to longer-term tenancies, including restrictions imposed on private landlords by mortgage lenders and by freeholders of leases.
However, although longer tenancies may be more secure for renters, landlords have found themselves out of pocket by around £5 billion every year due to property damage and rent arrears. Damage to rental properties sees landlords fork out a huge £4.5 billion.
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The founder and CEO of Imfuna Let, Jax Kneppers, believes that landlords are supporting tenants with longer leases, but it does come at a cost.
He says: “Property damage and wear and tear are big issues in the property over a longer tenancy period. The longer a tenant stays in a property, the more likely it is that the property will be subject to wear and tear. When this occurs, a landlord may decide to hold onto the deposit in order to cover the cost of repairs, redecoration and cleaning bills at the end of a long-term tenancy.
“Damage and fair wear and tear need to be independently and expertly assessed in order to provide solid grounds for any charges raised against the tenant. Clearly, landlords and tenants have different expectations when it comes to fair wear and tear issues. However, if landlords wish to avoid the hassle of arguments over who is responsible for damage, they need to prepare a thorough inventory of the condition of the property that details the condition of everything in it.”
The Director of Balgores Property Group, Howard Lester, also comments: “We have seen the length of tenancies in Essex rise by over 100% over the last three years. This has been largely due to the changing nature of tenants, with many making the conscious decision to rent rather than buy. Whilst this has obviously been good news for our landlords, it has meant the quality of the inventory at the beginning of the tenancy has become much more important, with the need to prove the difference between wear and tear and damage becoming paramount.
“Obviously, there is a distinct difference between fair wear and tear and actual damage – for example, carpet tread will flatten over time where there has been foot traffic, but cigarette burns, stains or soiling will require a charge.”
Imfuna Let has compiled some advice on what wear and tear should be covered by the landlord and the tenant:
- A landlord should expect to emulsion walls and ceilings every three to five years.
- Everything in property has a limited lifespan – A landlord must expect to renew certain items following a long tenancy. For example, a landlord may need to replace inexpensive items, such as door mats, plastic or wooden kitchen ware, ironing board covers, lightweight chopping boards, oven gloves, cheap saucepans and paper lampshades.
- Replacing bath sealant also falls under a landlord’s maintenance issues after a tenancy of one year or longer.
- Every three years, landlords should replace items such as polycotton bed linen, mattress and pillow covers, duvets, metal colanders, inexpensive kitchen bins, barbecue tools and indoor clothes airers.
- Some items should be considered disposable if they are missing or damaged after a long tenancy, such as a plastic toilet brush, inexpensive pillows and mattress protectors, flower arrangements, plastic shower curtains, house plants, and plastic and wooden kitchen utensils.
- Tenants must remember that if something can be cleaned, it should be. Cleaning issues are never treated as fair wear and tear.
- The property, its contents and any exterior areas must be maintained to the standard as listed on the inventory at the start of the tenancy. A few minor marks to walls are considered fair wear and tear, while heavy marks will incur a charge.
- If items are broken or light bulbs are blown, they must be replaced before moving out. It would be more expensive to the tenant if an agent or landlord has to arrange outside contractors to attend the property.
- A few minor scratches or light wear to furniture could be considered fair wear and tear. However, heat marks and water marks caused by tenant negligence will be deemed as damage and therefore a chargeable issue.
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